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North Texas Doctors Practicing Concierge Medicine

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Frustrated with packed waiting rooms, mounting paperwork and falling reimbursements, thousands of physicians are abandoning traditional practices in favor of what's being called 'concierge' or 'boutique' medical practices.  Doctors typically charge a flat fee that can range from a few thousand dollars a year to $50,000 annually in some parts of the country.  In exchange, patients get same day appointments and more personalized attention.

"For me, it has brought the love of medicine back," says Dr. Sarah Davis, a Dallas family practice physician.  Davis was one of the first in North Texas to attempt such a practice after reading about a  similar experiment in Seattle.  The birth of her second child—and growing discontent with modern healthcare—convinced her that it was time for a change.

"I would walk into a room, the person would have their list of questions and I would think 'Oh, no, there are 10 more people waiting—I'm not going to have enough time to answer all of these questions.  I'm going to have to really cut to the chase.'"  And that meant hurrying through appointments.

"There are studies that say doctors interrupt patients every 7 seconds, and I was becoming one of those doctors," says Davis.  "They'd start to tell their story.  But, I didn't have time to hear the whole story.  I'd just need to get the details, get a diagnosis, and get them their prescription and move on to the next person."

That was more than a decade ago.  Now, instead of hurrying through 40 appointments in a single day, Davis' entire practice is limited to roughly one hundred patients who pay an annual fee.  Her fee includes an extensive physical, lab work and unlimited office visits.  And yes, patients have her cell phone number and she makes house calls.  But, Dr. Davis insists that the value is in the personal attention that translates into higher quality healthcare.

"I would pay three times what I pay for that level of service," says Gene Carter, a Dallas businessman.  "I'm still very active in my business, and time is of the essence," says Carter, a long time patient.  "Dr. Davis is very good about being very prompt.  When you walk into her office, ten seconds later you're in the exam room and hopefully 10 minutes later, you're gone.  And that's a wonderful experience."

And although careful not to abuse it, Carter says it is in an incredible convenience to have a physician who will come to the house or office, when necessary.

The limited practice size also allows Davis to spend more time just being Mom to 14-year-old Ryan and 12-year-old Stephanie.

"I'm available when they [patients] need me," says Davis.  "But, if they don't need me I can run up to the school to the Valentine's Day party.  I can make my way to the cub scout meeting or girl scout meeting.  And that was important to me to be able to not miss out on all of those very important events."

To find a concierge physician in your area, check out their non-profit association, the American Academy of Private Physicians.

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